Joni Berry, Longtime Professional Dancers Society Chairman, Dies at 89

Courtesy of Nathan Sternfeld
Joni Berry

The Beverly Hills-based philanthropist was honored for her work with The Actors Fund last year.

Joni Berry, a philanthropist and longtime chairman of the Professional Dancers Society, an organization that assists dancers in need, died Sunday in Los Angeles of complications from COVID-19, a publicist announced. She was 89. 

A dancer herself back in the day, Berry performed with the likes of Sammy Davis Jr., Gene Kelly, Dan Dailey and Donald O'Connor.

She spent 24 years as chairman of the PDS. Last year, Berry and PDS president Mitzi Gaynor were honored with the Medal of Honor from The Actors Fund in recognition of the partnership between the organizations that began in 1994. The PDS' annual Gypsy Awards event collected more than $2 million to support the fund's services to dancers.

Also in 2019, Berry received the Shining Spirit Award for her 60-plus years of service to SHARE Inc., which raises funds to enhance the lives of children in need. A founding member and former president, she performed and helped SHARE stage shows for years.

She also was president of a Los Angeles-based charity, the Eichenbaum Foundation.

Born in Chicago on Dec. 30, 1930, Berry was adopted by Joseph and Inez Eichenbaum when she was five days old. As a youngster, she danced as a member of Merriel Abbott's Chicago Baby Professionals. 

When she was 8, she and her parents came west, and they lived in Beverly Hills and Palm Springs. (Her father was a real estate developer in Chicago, Miami and Southern California.) She graduated from Beverly Hills High School and at one time was a state bowling champion. 

A longtime resident of Beverly Hills, she established the Jody Berry Theatre at RiverPark Center in Owensboro, Kentucky, in memory of her late husband, a singer who died in 2005. 

Survivors include her husband, author Stephen Maitland-Lewis; son Tony; stepchildren Douglas, Howard, Toby, Benjamin and Victoria; and five step-grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to SHARE.